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I just completed my SECOND thru-hike of the year! I'm so proud! :-)
I admit that when I posted about my virtual SHT thru-hike back in March I figured life would be normalized by now. Oops! With the pandemic persisting, the National Scenic Trail organizations continue to recommend local hiking.
So, I continue to put in my 5 to 7 miles most mornings and that has finally added up to 800 miles - the length of the Arizona Trail. You can see in the image above that I've covered and re-covered most of my local area. The red circle is about 6 miles in diameter. I hiked for 90 to 100 minutes 5 times a week for 27 weeks.
I know it's not as interesting as a long trail, but better than nothing. Now, I'm working on either the Pacific Northwest Trail, ice Age Trail, or Florida Trail - I haven't decided yet but they are all similar lengths. And, I have about 350 miles or so to complete them.
By the way, I've also picked up over 350 pounds of trash over my 800 miles as a 2020 GroundsKeeper through Granite Gear. Might as well accomplish something while walking.
You can do a Virtual Thru Hike too!
You can virtually hike your trail of choice while staying safe and doing some good where you live. Here's how:
- Get up early while it's still cool and the trails are less crowded. Around 7:30am, our trails just fill up, so I go at 6:30.
- Use gmap.pedometer.com to figure out an 8-mile route around your community.
- Hike this route in 2.5 hours.
- Get home by 9am for a shower.
- Repeat 5 times a week, making new routes.
- Take a bag along and pick up litter.
- Easy Peasy
Finally preparing for a real hike this year!
Like the vast majority of hikers, I've been doing the #stayathome #staysafe #stayhealthy #socialdistancing #recreateresponsibly and all the other hashtags encouraging us to minimize our impact on the spreading of covid-19. I've been walking about 6 miles each morning since March and have started doing an hour or so of hill hiking with a pack on for the past couple weeks. On August 3, I'll be heading out for a week of backpacking.
Since my first trek in the Cloud Peak Wilderness near Buffalo, WY 15 years ago, I've wanted to hike the complete Solitude Loop Trail but each year I've led a group instead. This year, there's no group going so I finally get to give it a try to hike the 60-mile loop solo.
A backpacking friend is driving with me and will do his own solo trip for a few days while I scurry all the way around the mountain. Then, we'll drive home together. So, the only pandemic impact we should have is any stops we make on the drive.
We are packing our own food and the drive will be about 13 hours. So, our only stops will be for gas and bathroom. Using credit cards, there's no risk of exposure getting gas. That means 3 or 4 minutes in a gas station bathroom every few hours is our only opportunity to contract or pass the virus. I feel that is a miniscule and socially responsible risk.
My trek plan is to start at Hunter trailhead on the east side of the wilderness area. We'll arrive Monday evening and I'll hike in a few miles north to find a campsite before it gets dark. If all goes well, I'll make it the 8 miles to Elk Lake where I meet the actual Solitude Trail 038 but I don't expect to make it that far.
The next morning, starting around dawn, I'll hike counter-clockwise to the west, covering the section of trail that I've never been on. This way, I'll have the more familiar sections later so I'll have a good idea of how long they'll take. I plan to walk 20 miles, or until I get tired. If that doesn't happen, and the weather is clear, it's a full moon so I might just hike into the night for a little excitement. I hope to reach Duncan Lake at the northwest corner of the loop to camp.
On the second full day of hiking, I head south over Geneva Pass and then a long, downhill section. At the Paintrock Creek ford, I head east and up into the higher part of the loop past Lake Solitude and to the base of Cloud Peak. If I reach this spot late in the day, I'll camp here. If I arrive early, I have to make a decision. I could stop for the day, do a summit climb of Cloud Peak on day 3 and then hike out on day 4. Or, I could push on east over Florence Pass and camp at Medicine Park then complete the loop on day 3 and have a short hike out on day 4.
And, as you experienced folks know, as soon as I set foot on the trail, the plan changes. So, we'll just see what adventure the trail provides.
If you'd like to follow along, my tracker will be plinking my location here on my blog throughout the days of hiking. I'll write each day, but I doubt there will be any coverage to post until I get off trail.
As part of my commitment as a 2020 Granite Gear GroundsKeeper, I'll be picking up any trash I find and packing it out. Hopefully, I'll find more the last day and not the first. I'll let you know how it goes. So far this year, I've gathered over 350 pounds of trash on my local hikes around town.
When I thru-hiked the Ice Age Trail across Wisconsin, I met Melanie hiking the trail in the opposite direction. At the time, her trail name was Valderi but it has since become Snowshoe. I'm very envious of Snowshoe because she has made a career of writing about her travels - can't beat that!
Anyway, since I'm no expert on the subject, I've asked Snowshoe to share her views on women solo hiking. Here's her thoughts...
One of the most common questions asked of veteran female hikers is this: Aren't you afraid to be alone on the trail? Most of the time, the real question behind this question revolves around the fear of being attacked, molested or killed by a male - not having an accident or being harmed by another woman.
My answer, and that of other experienced female hikers, is a resounding No! Sure, there are risks to heading into the outdoors alone - risks that apply to both men and women. And yes, you need to take some precautions. A few of the main ones: Always let someone know where you are going. Carry a medical kit and a phone with charger. (A GPS device that can communicate by satellite is also a wise option.) Have adequate food and water, know the weather forecast and dress appropriately.
But commonsense precautions aside, here are four reasons why solo hiking is safer than you may believe.
1. Few People Are Attacked or Killed While Hiking
Yes, every once in a while some crazy person kills a hiker and it's splashed all over the news. But that's a very rare occurrence compared to the risks we encounter in everyday life. Let's look at some numbers:
- According to the CDC, in 2017 the top causes of death for females of all ages, races and origins were heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, Alzheimer's disease, unintentional injuries, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, kidney disease and septicemia.
- In 2019, nearly 40,000 people died in car crashes in the U.S., according to the National Safety Council.
- After a male hiker on the Appalachian Trail (AT) was killed by a machete-wielding man in the spring of 2019, some panic ensued among hikers. So the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) crunched some numbers and reported this: During the last 45 years, about a dozen people were killed on the AT by other people. But since 2 to 3 million people hike on the AT every year, that computes to a 1 in 20 million chance of being murdered on the AT.
The lesson? Rather than worry about some creeper in the woods, you're better off making sure you always wear a seatbelt when you're in the car, and that you eat well and regularly exercise your mind and brain.
2. Sexual Assaults Aren't Typically Committed by Strangers
If you're going to be sexually assaulted, chances are it will be by someone you know, not a stranger on the trail. According to RAINN – the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network – eight out of 10 rapes are committed by people known to their victims.
3. Trail Associations Have Your Back
Trail associations are passionate about their paths. If they learn of a problem on their trail - say, a sketchy individual lurking in the woods or harassing hikers - they will be on it, stat. Remember, too, that you can always call a trail association or governing body before you set out to ask if there are any current safety concerns. It doesn't hurt to get the names and numbers of some local trail angels, too. Then, should you become uneasy for any reason and want to get off the trail earlier than planned, you'll have someone nearby to call.
4. It's Easy to Hike in Solitude or Crowds
Depending on your perspective, you may feel safer hiking among crowds or striking out where virtually no one will be around. You're in luck, as it's easy to do both. If you want to hike solo, yet have the comfort of many people in the vicinity should something happen, select a popular trail and plan to hike it during peak season. That could be the southern terminus of the AT in March or April, the Florida Trail in January or the John Muir Trail in late summer.
Conversely, if you'd like to wander alone in the woods, there are thousands upon thousands of miles of little-known trail out there to explore. Ever heard of the Kekekabic, Jones Hole or Charon's Garden Trails? Identify some of these paths less followed and head on out.
Over the last decade, I've hiked nearly 10,000 miles, mostly alone. Yes, there was one time when a man made me feel uncomfortable by asking questions I found unusual. I quickly hiked on and nothing happened. But far more significant is that during this same time, dozens of male hikers helped me on the trail – doing everything from carrying my pack over a rushing stream and helping me climb over large obstacles to sharing snacks and lending me a phone charger when mine died.
The message is clear: Shelve those fears and hike on!
Melanie Radzicki McManus writes and blogs at The Thousand-Miler. She has trekked around the globe and is currently attempting to hike all 11 U.S. National Scenic Trails. As of May 2020, she has four down and a fifth partially completed.
The past month has been pretty boring for hiking with rona in the works. Oh, I've been doing plenty of it - about 6 miles every day, mostly in the morning before the local trails get packed with people not working and battling cabin fever. On these hikes, I've managed to pick up over 200 pounds of trash, garbage, and litter doing my part as a 2020 GroundsKeeper.
The challenge is finding new places to walk without being a covidiot and going far from home. Fortunately, there's lots of trails around here with few people, so I'm happy not acting like a morona.
I just create an online Hiking Dude Store page where you can get some cool Social Distancing stickers and patches for your water bottle, backpack, or whatever.
Check it out.
Now that talk about opening things up a bit is circulating, I'm hopeful we'll be out on the long trails in a month or so, post-rona. I hope to see you out there!
Until then, recreate close to home and don't put on that dreaded COVID-15 from sitting around home.
Missing the outdoors? You can still go on walks and hikes every day. But, for those long days of social isolation, there are a ton of movies and videos to watch and wonder why you ever thought being in the wilderness would be a good idea. :-) Most of these can be found on some streaming service, but maybe not yours.
Are one of these your fav? There are a lot more, so please add any other suggestions you have...Long Hikes:
- free - Walking Home
- free - As It Happens
- free - Only the Essential
- A Walk in the Woods
- Into the Wild
- Mile...Mile and a Half
- Tell It on the Mountain
- The Way
- The Way Back
- free - The Endurance
- 7 Years in Tibet
- A River Runs Through It
- Dances With Wolves
- Desert Runners
- Lost City of Z
- Ride the Divide
- Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Plus, here's 101 free videos of various lengths and quality to pass the time...
- 7 Stages - skiing - 41:44
- Amo - Easter Island - 7:08
- Ascending Afghanistan - Afghan women issues and mountain climb - 43:33
- Age of Ondra - Part 1 - Adam Ondra - 20:57
- AoO-2 - part 2 - 30:22
- AoO-3 - part 3 - 27:53
- Artifishal - saving wild salmon - 1:19:55
- Aziza - ultra-running - 6:30
- Bawli Booch - Downhill Biking India - 4:30
- Beautiful Idiot - mountain biking - 14:41
- Beneath the Ice - ice climbing and climate change - 16:48
- Blood on the Crack - rock climbing - 9:49
- Blood Road - Ho Chi Minh Trail bike ride - 1:34:59
- Blue Heart - protest European river dams - 43:59
- BMX Nigeria - city BMX riding - 12:12
- Break on Through - rock climbing - 29:03
- Brotherhood of Skiing - black skiers - 10:11
- Brothers of Climbing - rock climbing - 7:18
- Camel Finds Water - building a boat - 8:37
- Carving Landscapes - reenactment of woman researcher - 6:13
- Charge - snowski tricks - 4:37
- Chasing a Trace - searching for wolverines - 20:01
- Chasing the Sublime - cold water swimming - 6:40
- Children of the Columbia - skiing and history - 21:23
- Climb Your Dreams - short poem - 2:29
- Circle of the Sun - skiing Norway - 5:03
- Danny Daycare - bicycling Scotland spoof - 4:10
- Defiance - snowboarding - 12:37
- Dream Job - skiing - 14:41
- Dreamride 3 - mountain biking - 6:00
- Eclipse - freeski - 31:24
- Electric Greg - climate change and mountain sports - 19:14
- Eli - ultrarunning - 5:18
- Emil Johansson's Story - mtb rider's illness - 24:52
- Escape - cross-Canada bike ride - 8:01
- Facing Sunrise - hiking - 8:51
- Fast Horse - bareback horse racing - 13:10
- Fell Runners - trail running - 17:17
- Flip - base jumping - 3:13
- For the Love of Mary - 97yrold runner - 6:17
- Free Flow - trail running, free climbing - 4:15
- Frozen Mind - snowboarding - 33:15
- Frozen Road - bike ride in Canada - 24:30
- Good Morning - red bull snow ski - 4:18
- Grizzly Country - protecting habitat - 11:46
- Holocene - climbing and skiing - 12:14
- Hourya - paragliding - 9:24
- How to Run 100 Miles - mountain ultramarathon - 28:14
- Ice & Palms - bikepacking - 32:00
- Imaginary Line - highline between US and Mexico - 10:38
- Kai Jones - 11yr-old snow skiing - 5:18
- Ladakh Project - whitewater kayaking - 14:11
- La Grave - free skiing - 17:00
- Last Honey Hunter - cliff climbing for honey - 35:51
- Legend of Rafael - bicycling - 6:51
- Lhotse - first ski descent - 23:00
- Life of Glide - snowboarding - 15:45
- Life of Pie - two women bikeriders - 11:47
- Liv Along the Way - mountain climbing - 22:21
- Lorax Project - basejumping - 34:38
- Loved By All - Apa Sherpa - 13:50
- My Mom Vala - fishing Greenland - 9:45
- Mother Earth - mountain biking - 5:43
- Motivator - meet my mom - 4:26
- Narics - snowboarding - 18:21
- Nordic Skater - ice skating - 5:26
- Okpilik - interview with woman - 4:57
- Out on a Limb - prosthetic foot for climber - 21:20
- Over Time - skiing - 7:20
- Par For The Course - Mirnavator hike - 3:39
- Perspectives - mountain biking - 5:20
- Redstone Pack - dog sledding - 5:22
- Refuge - steelhead fishing - 6:04
- Ride of the Dead - Mexico mountain biking - 11:53
- River's Call - whitewater kayaking - 7:45
- RJ Ripper - Mountain Biking in India - 19:00
- Rotpunkt - rock climbing - 50:27
- Running Pastor - trail running - 8:14
- Sacred Strides - running for Bears Ears - 12:20
- Safe Haven - indoor rock climbing- 7:49
- Silence - rock climbing - 17:40
- Ski Photographer - skiing - 8:49
- Skier Vs Drone - drone & skiier race - 4:08
- Sky Piercer - skiing - 43:57
- Solstice - skiing - 3:56
- Speak to Me Softly - rock climbing - 6:14
- Standing Man - FTK MTB attempt - 13:05
- Surface - ocean photography - 7:07
- Surviving the Outback - a month in Australia wilds - 59:49
- Thabang - trail running in Africa - 13:15
- The Botanist - building hydroelectric to survive - 20:04
- The Frenchy - 82yrold ski racer - 14:19
- The Moment - mountain biking - 1:17:05
- The Passage - canoe the Inside Passage - 25:19
- This Land - running - 10:32
- Treeline - forest communities - 40:16
- Up To Speed - speed climbing - 22:30
- Valley of the Moon - climbing - 21:38
- Wallmapu - skiing - 5:50
- We Are Abel - life of caribou hunter - 8:35
- Wolf Pack - trail running - 12:23
Did you plan on doing a long hike this year? Maybe a thru-hike of a long trail? Well, the Pacific Crest Trail Association, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Continental Divide Trail Coalition, Ice Age Trail Alliance, Florida Trail Association, Arizona Trail, and probably every other long trail support group have cancelled all events, closed their offices, and recommend using local trails rather than doing thru-hikes. A bandanna over your face isn't really gonna cut it.
Some folks are of the opinion that, being America and all, we've got the right to hike! Sure, being in the fresh outdoors is certainly healthier than being in a confined building day after day, and our country's long trails can still be hiked. But, besides the disregard to recommendations from the trail associations, and unconcern about spreading the virus, someone that makes the decision to do a long hike now will have extra challenges, such as:
- Facilities closed in trail towns - restaurants, laundromats, stores, and other businesses will not provide the usual support
- Hitch hiking - expect to walk that mile or three to town rather than getting an easy ride to town and back to trail
- Trail Angels - don't expect any free food, free rooms and showers, shuttling, or any of the other free support often found
- Hostels - closed down just like the hotels, motels, and BnBs
- Medical Support - sickness or injury will be up to you to care for with small, local doctors overburdened with current patients. Search-n-Rescue will also be hindered so you're on your own to survive
- Camping - local, state, and national park camping facilities being closed means stealth camping and locked bathrooms. Expect the same at private campgrounds, too.
Then there are those who have given up their plans for a thru-hike this year. Even in the best possible case of virus containment, there will not be enough hiking days available to complete the trail they had planned. Sadness and frustration abound in this group, but all is not lost!
Virtual Thru Hike
You can virtually hike your trail while staying safe and doing some good where you live. Here's how:
- Get up at 5am.
- Use gmap.pedometer.com to lay out a 10-mile route around your community.
- Hike this route in 3 or 4 hours.
- Get home by 9am for the rest of your day.
- Repeat making new routes and hiking them for 1 month, or 10 months.
- Feel free to take a bag along and pick up litter along the path.
- Congrats! You completed your thru-hike!!! and it looks something like this...
The image above is my Superior Hiking Trail VTH (virtual thru hike) I completed the past two months. The circle is about 6 miles in diameter. I hiked for 90 to 100 minutes 5 times a week for 10 weeks.
Now, I'm working on my Arizona Trail VTH which will be 800 miles. I hope to finish by the 4th of July.
I still hope to do some multi-day hikes this year, but they will only happen if official guidance approves of the activity. And, I plan on using these parameters:
- No resupply - I'll carry all my food from the start so I don't need to interact with trail towns.
- No communal shelters or hostels - I'll sleep in my own shelter away from any other people.
- Emergency Support - I'll carry a SPOT Messenger to track my path and alert help in emergencies.
- Real Wilderness - my treks will be on less-used trails at a less popular time of year where I'll likely encounter no one else.
Where will you be hiking this year? Did you change plans for a hike, or are you hiking your plan, or are you waiting to see how the virus situation evolves?
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Feb 13, 2020 - Jason Berklund
Feb 13, 2020 - Hiking Dude
Getting to the northern terminus is expensive (in my mind). If you can schedule correctly, Arrowhead Transit is cheapest to Grand Marais, but then Harriet Quarles is the only shuttle I know of. You might find a good ol' boy in Grand Marais willing to drive you the 35 miles to the end for a few $$$.
It's a 3 hour drive from Duluth - that's 6 hours and 300 miles round-trip. Maybe your friend would like to drive up the north shore for a day.
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